Author’s note: Yes! A NEW Hope Sze medical thriller in a brand spanking new Hope series tied to the seven deadly sins, with paranormal elements! (See Hope’s red eyes?)
The Kickstarter launches TODAY at 1 pm. Please support me! It’s my birthday, and you can contribute as little as $1. I’ll tempt you with a free sample of the prologue below.
And now the preview!
University College Hospital, September 14, 07:58
Gordon Cole didn’t expect anyone to die that day.
He’d chosen anesthesia as a specialty one year ago partly because 99 percent of the time, everything flowed smoothly in the operating room.
As a junior resident doctor, Gordon helped put patients to sleep for surgery, kept them alive during the procedure, and gently brought them back to consciousness afterward. His epidurals eased the pain of childbirth so much that one new mother named her baby after him. Gordon helped wean chronic pain patients off dangerously high doses of narcotics. Ninety-nine percent of the time, anesthesia stayed calm and well-controlled.
The other one percent of the time, the patient crashed before his eyes. A woman’s airway swelled shut, blocking her breathing. A man bled out after a stab wound to his heart. Worst of all, a baby with an abnormal connection between her trachea and esophagus had choked in front of him.
Then anesthesia had to control the airway and breathing, support the circulation, and take control of the situation.
That terrified Gordon. Luckily, today’s attending physician, Dr. Burns, handled pretty much everything.
Everything except the world’s meanest surgeon.
Gordon got along with most surgeons. Some of them joked non-stop. Nearly all saved lives on the regular. Gordon especially admired the skill of two female attending surgeons.
But the one dinosaur left in Canada dwelled at Montreal’s University College Hospital.
“Come on, Singlit!” shouted Dr. Vrac before kicking the OR table hard enough to jostle the unconscious patient, Joan Finn.
Mrs. Finn’s sedated body didn’t stir more than a centimetre, but the scrub nurse, Trent, gasped.
“I’m right here,” replied Raj Singh, the general surgery chief resident at Dr. Vrac’s side.
“I’m getting old waiting for the all-clear,” said Dr. Vrac. He watched the anesthesiologist, eyes glittering, without picking on Dr. Burns directly.
Dr. Burns kept his lips pressed together as he double-checked the patient’s endotracheal tube, the tube that allowed Mrs. Finn to breathe during the surgery, and the CO2 monitor that measured her carbon dioxide level.
“Stinks in here, gas docs,” Dr. Vrac told the anaesthesia team, sniffing the air through his mask while the surgical staff gathered around Mrs. Finn’s lower half on the operating room table. “I haven’t even used the cautery yet. Anyone else smell that?”
The stench filled the confines of their white-walled room. It didn’t smell like inhalational agents like Sevoflurane, nor like cauterized, or burnt, tissue. Gordon shifted side to side and held his breath as he stood with Dr. Burns at the patient’s head and neck on one side of the blue drape. The surgical staff on the opposite side of the drape didn’t flinch at the smell of … well, human gas.
Dr. Burns privately called the blue drape the “blood-brain barrier,” a joke both about the membrane separating the brain from the rest of the body and the fact that surgeons might deal with the flesh and blood, but anesthesiologists considered themselves the true brains of the OR.
“Someone’s got a bad case of the farts today,” said Dr. Vrac. “As a general surgeon, I’m an expert in that. Pus, guts, or cancer, I’m your man!” He turned to his chief resident. “Too much daal, eh, Dr. Singh?”
Gordon winced. The curly-haired medical student tsked, but the scrub nurse, Trent, snorted and laughed. Singh shook his head and kept his gloved hands sterile by pressing his palms together as if in prayer.
“Running behind today?” Tammy called from the doorway. As the charge nurse, she made sure every OR ran on time.
“No way,” Vrac shot back. “Just about to blow the belly up.” He cackled as if no one had ever heard his slang for inflating the abdomen with carbon dioxide for laparoscopic surgery.
“Almost there,” said Dr. Burns, double checking a wire.
Gordon knew better than to elbow his way in as a first year anesthesia resident. He’d run cases alone, but never with Dr. Vrac. Dr. Burns—who didn’t invite Gordon to call him by his first name, Bob—would tell Gordon if he wanted his help. Right now, Gordon stayed out of the way.
“Might be done faster if we had an RT today, Tammy,” said Dr. Vrac.
Gordon scowled behind his blue surgical mask. At UC Hospital, the respiratory therapist often assisted on the airway, but the ORs ran one RT short today. Dr. Burns had told Tammy that he and Gordon could manage on their own.
“Want me to donate another 20K to the foundation to speed this up? Consider it done. I can always make more money.” Dr. Vrac wiggled his gloved fingers in the air. “Surgical hands. Magic hands. Girls love ’em. That’s why I’ve got more women than cars.”
“So magical that he has no wife,” Dr. Burns whispered. He and Gordon exchanged a silent moment of understanding on their side of the drape before the older anesthesiologist let out an unmistakable ripping noise.
“Fart attack!” Dr. Vrac laughed so hard that he almost fell onto the unconscious patient.
“Excuse me,” Dr. Burns muttered, but no one else heard him while Dr. Vrac shouted, “Instead of Robbie Burns day, it’s Farty Burns day!”
The humiliation writ large on Dr. Burns’s face was Gordon’s first clue that someone might die today.
End of prologue. Let me know what you think. Surgeons pointed out that the negative stereotyping of their profession, which I do address in the novel.
Hope to see you on Kickstarter at 1 p.m. ET!